A BIOFUELS operator has pleaded with EU bureaucrats not to stymy its progress after a North-East refinery’s renaissance bolstered incomes.

CropEnergies says revenues have increased following the re-start of work at its Ensus plant, near Redcar.

However, bosses today (Wednesday, January 10) reiterated a warning first made last year over a potentially “lost decade for climate protection” unless EU officials change their stance on biofuels.

CropEnergies’ Ensus factory uses wheat to create bioethanol that is added to petrol, and helped push overall business production volumes 15 per cent higher to 847,000 cubic metres in the period between March and November.

However, the company fears EU dawdling could undo its work, with volatile ethanol prices already expected to affect its progress in the present quarter.

Chief executive Joachim Lutz said not enough is being done to focus on the transport sector in the EU’s renewable drive, saying worries over arable crops are misplaced.

He said: “No specific target is envisaged for the transport sector; the aim is merely to achieve a gradual increase in the proportion of specific alternative fuels.

“The European Commission justifies its proposals by citing doubts about the sustainability of renewable fuels from arable crops.

“However, European ethanol is already shown to cut greenhouse gas emissions compared with petrol and reduce the excessive dependence on fossil fuel imports.

“The Commission’s proposal would neither lower fossil fuel consumption or reduce the exploitation of fossil fuel sources.

“The 2020s could develop into a lost decade for climate and environmental protection on Europe’s roads.”

The warning came as CropEnergies revealed its progress in a nine-month trading update, which showed Ensus’ rebirth in mid-2016 had helped push income from operations from £47m a year ago to £51m.

Bosses added the re-start also helped lower special costs, which fell from £5.3m to £620,000.

However, despite revealing annual revenues are expected to rise to as much as £815m, against last year’s £710m, officials have issued caution over an unstable ethanol price market, which they believe will knock operating profit from £87m to around £75m.

CropEnergies’ turnaround plan for Ensus included pausing work for a number of months to improve the factory’s reliability after falling prices and oil’s sluggish value forced the firm to cut jobs.

Remaining protein and grain from the petrol process at the site, which employs in the region of 100 people, is used to make animal feed and carbon dioxide for the soft drink and food markets.